I know that I’m not alone in the feeling that I don’t really belong in this world. This is a somewhat “no duh” sort of statement – most autistic people, I imagine, feel that way at some time or another.
I feel like so many times, I try so very hard, harder than my allistic/NT counterparts. I expend so much energy, I work so hard and try and do so much just so that I can rejoice in little victories.
I have done something recently that I don’t think I ever expected to do. I’ve been promoted to manager of the fast food restaurant where I work. This is fantastic and I’m so grateful that they’re recognizing how hard I work to make every guest’s experience a good one, and I don’t balk at hard work, and I’m always there to pick up any shifts that they need me to.
The problem is that I’m extremely nervous about this change. Not only am I going to be in a more fast-paced part of the store, but my responsibilities will be increased and I won’t always have a script to rely on. Because let’s be real. You screw up someone’s order at the drive thru, and you have a script to fix it. Your interactions with a customer are very minimal and they pretty much rely on a formula. Greet the customer, take their order, thank them. Greet them when they get to your window, take their payment, thank them, and send them to the next window to retrieve their order. Of course there’s some variance here, and some of them make little comments and jokes and I never know how to fully respond to those, but overall, it’s pretty much the same thing every day.
But now? Now I will have people to manage, and added responsibilities and what if I don’t understand something is a joke? And one of the management training e-learning courses mentioned that only 7% of what is communicated is through words only, and that body language/facial expressions/eye contact is important and this makes me want to cry in frustration. Will I piss off someone and be reported as “rude” (which is grounds for immediate termination)? Do I dare bring up the fact that I’m autistic with my employer, which though it isn’t a secret (it’s in my employment paperwork from my new hire orientation) isn’t exactly something I have been completely open about at work?
I don’t know. Will I be able to manage the politics within the management that currently exists? Will I be accepted as one of them or will I be an outcast like I usually am? I’m not sure. I want to do well, because I love my job. I know it’s against the stereotype of autistic people, but gosh, I really do love people. I love making them happy. I know that our food is not the best health-wise, but I want to make people happy by giving them at least good quality food, even if its healthfulness is in question.
It’s mostly just nerves. Of the three people becoming manager this month, I’ve been there for years less than the others. So I know that I’ve shown that I can do my job and do it well, and they’ve taken notice. I am further in my training (in the e-learning modules) than the others, as far as I can tell. I am excited about this job, and I want to do well. Some would say that it’s just nerves, but I know that isn’t the case. I have legitimate concerns because of the way I am and the way I’ve been since the day I was born. Perhaps if I had more social skills training taught by other autistics, I’d know how to properly form my face so it doesn’t look like I’m either overly enthusiastic and making fun of someone or completely flat and disinterested.
I guess in the end, I’ll find out how autistic and disability friendly my employer really is.
I’m grateful for the opportunity – I just hope that I have the chance to prove myself.